I absolutely love to accumulate money.
For most of my life, I have made it a game to minimize expenses, and maximize saving and investing.
At times, this obsession has drifted into disrupting other areas of my life. From relationships, to vacations, money has always been a major factor.
I mean, I’ve never gone as far as “Julius” (Terry Crews) from Everybody Hates Chris, but far enough.
Over time, I realized that I no longer wanted to keep up a traditional “frugal” lifestyle and identity.
I needed some space.
As my relationship with money got stronger, and I began identifying with the journey of reaching financial well-being, my outlook shifted.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love to save money, it’s just no longer my main motivation for every little financial decision.
I will still buy generic Cheerios, but I can no longer be so opposed to enjoying the fruits of my labor when it truly can enhance my experience in that moment.
So these days, my money philosophy is simple: I don’t spend my money on shit that doesn’t matter to me, and I spend fairly easy on things that do.
This approach has been a way better balance for me, and feels healthier than ever before.
I’m not here to try to persuade you to change your money philosophy, but I hope to at least encourage you to take a deeper look into your own.
Let’s Be Clear: Frugal Is Not Cheap
To start, let’s get clear on what I mean when I say “frugal”.
Frugal by definition is about being economical with money. But, it doesn’t go to the extreme of what would be considered “cheap”.
These two terms are often swapped, misused, and treated as synonyms, but they couldn’t be more different.
While it’s true that frugal and cheap people both love to save, there’s a difference in how far they take it.
Being cheap is mostly about the bottom line and saving money at ALL costs.
To the frugal person, the bottom line isn’t the only motivator, but they would still like to maximize savings as efficiently as possible.
If that doesn’t sit well with you, consider the way my sister put it:
“Frugal is buying the less expensive perfume. Cheap is asking for samples and rubbing the magazine version on your body”.
I mean, I don’t think I could say it any better.
My Spending Decisions Are Now Based On Values, Not Cost
If you come to my house, be prepared to either listen to music, or be forced to talk to me.
Now personally, I like to think I am great company to chat with.
But, the main point is that you won’t find any cable to watch.
I actually only have one TV in my entire house and I watch it less than 30 minutes a week.
Now as a kid born in the 80s and growing up in the 90s, TV was my THING.
Nickelodeon, TGIF, and MTV “reality” shows like the Real World would entertain me for hours.
For years I paid for cable. And then, I ran to my little gambling fiasco and decided to drop it in order to save money.
Over time of not having it, I lost my dependence on it. Even once I was able to afford it again, you could say I lost my appetite for it.
Cutting cable started as simply an effort to save money, and became an extension of my approach to life.
If I’m choosing not to spend, it’s not out of motivation to be “frugal”, it’s because it simply doesn’t align with my values.
I Now Prioritize Saving Time Over Saving Money
At the risk of sounding bougie, I pay someone to maintain my yard.
Yep, and with zero regrets.
I actually don’t mind tending to my yard, I’m just short on time.
Between financial coaching, blogging, facilitating classes, frequent travel, playing in my jazz trio, and working full-time, I don’t have the time for it.
Well, I should say that I just don’t want to make the time for it.
Instead, I hired the neighborhood “young entrepreneur” to come by every 2 weeks and hook my lawn up.
He saves 6 hours of my time each month, and he can cut it in a fraction of the time it takes me to knock it out.
That’s now time I can put into the other areas of my life that bring me more satisfaction.
In the past, I would have viewed that as a waste of money and just did it myself. But now? Nah, the expense is totally worth it.
My decision to outsource lawn care is not driven by cost, it’s driven by my value of time, and the desire to maximize it.
I’m Embracing Intentional Splurging
What brings you legit joy and happiness?
For me, it’s experiences, so that’s where my money goes.
I enjoy traveling comfortably (no hostels for me), seeing my favorite artists in concert, and being a tourist wherever I go.
I’m also quite the James Bond fanatic and recently, I’ve become a self-proclaimed “new” Harry Potter enthusiast.
So, in planning a recent trip to London, England, I made sure to get my Bond and Potter fix, regardless of the cost.
I visited Warner Brothers Studios for The Making Of Harry Potter, and checked out Bond In Motion, an up-close look at the classic cars of the James Bond movies.
Those two experiences weren’t cheap, but that wasn’t a concern to me.
I set aside the money, and then bought the tickets. Guilt-free spending that was worth every penny.
I’ve learned to embrace making memories without feeling guilty about the cost. Besides, I can always go make more money.
My Balance Is Being Restored
There is a FINE line between what I would consider to be healthy, and unhealthy frugality.
It can be easy to become so consumed with saving a few bucks, that the concept of saving can start controlling you.
When in an extremely unhealthy state, money will dictate what you do on a daily basis, even if you can afford it.
For example, I’ve missed countless celebrations, events, and experiences in the past simply because I didn’t want to pay for it.
Even though I had the money, the prospect of saving money via declining invitations became the sole factor.
While it seemed like a smart move in that moment, it was actually me allowing money to control my life.
Instead, the desire should be to have such a strong connection to your values that you earn and use money as a means to bring those values to life.
Preparation Will Always Be The Key
While this has been a fun evolution, it’s not a reckless one.
I’m not spending without thinking, I just prepare and approach money from a place of balanced abundance and not scarcity.
Preparation is something I value, and I actually believe it’s enhanced my freedom as opposed to hindering it.
For me, that means knowing what I value, why, and putting thought into how I can achieve them without doing myself financial harm.
As you work towards your journey, keep these guidelines in mind.
- Understand your values and how you can achieve them without going financially backwards
- Once you’ve caught up on all regular and required financial obligations, create financial goals
- Develop a healthy spending plan that will help you stay on track
- Cut out the crap you don’t need, so you can fund what’s important to you
- Exercise full control of your spending habits by seeking to understand them
- Build a plan and focus on getting out of debt
- Establish your emergency fund
- If you don’t have the money to pay for it, don’t charge it
- Ensure you are supporting your intermediate and long-term financial goals
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of building a strong financial foundation before getting a little “relaxed” with your money.
Getting these elements in place is what helped me to feel confident in releasing my grip of every penny, while still feeling in control.
Sometimes I feel like a recovering frugal living addict.
Since I value financial stability, there will always be a part of me that is conscious about my money decisions, and I’m glad.
This will keep me moving forward in my goals, and if I’m being honest, it’s not like I’m going to go buck wild with my money. That’s just not in my nature.
But the main difference is that I’m no longer allowing the quest to save money dictate every area of my life, and that’s quite liberating.
Now that I’m at this place, this seems to be the natural evolution in building a healthy relationship with money.
A relationship founded on being driven by my values, not out of fear of spending.
What about you? What is your current approach and money philosophy?